Denton: Magic vs. Warriors Analysis (12/31/13)


Things only got worse when Orlando suffered a potentially crippling blow late in the first period when Vucevic rolled his ankle while trying to defend an Andrew Bogut hook shot. It’s the same ankle that Vucevic injured early in December when he accidentally stepped on a courtside photographer. That injury cost him four games on the sidelines.

Vucevic was able to walk off the court under his own power, but he didn’t stop at the bench and instead hobbled straight to the locker room. He seemed to be in a great deal of pain and he did not return in the game.

``I just think any time that he’s out, we miss his ability to be big for us at the rim and to rebound the basketball,’’ Magic coach Jacque Vaughn said of Vucevic. ``He’s important to what we do.’’

Vucevic’s injury came on the one-year anniversary of his record-setting rebounding performance against the Miami Heat last New Year’s Eve. The 7-footer corralled 29 rebounds this time last year to break Shaquille O’Neal’s nearly 20-year-old Magic record of 28 boards in a game.

Orlando was one of the few teams to beat Golden State twice last season. The Magic gave the Warriors their only loss on a seven-game trip to the East Coast and they won in Oakland on the second night of a back-to-back set of games.

After being in Orlando for the last 16 days and six straight games, the Magic will leave on Wednesday for Cleveland for a Thursday game against the Cavaliers. Orlando will host the Miami Heat on Saturday before departing on Sunday for an extended trip to the West Coast.

The Magic struggled on both ends of the floor in the first half and it showed on the scoreboard in the form of a 58-35 deficit at intermission. Orlando couldn’t get nearly enough stops as Golden State made 10 of its first 17 shots and hit 55.3 percent of its shots in the first half.

Offensively, Orlando had little going early on when it scored just 15 and 20 points in the first two quarters. The Magic just three field goals combined from starters Glen Davis, Tobias Harris and Jameer Nelson in the first half.

And not having Vucevic for tip-ins, rebounds in traffic and to serve as a post presence on exacerbated Orlando’s woes on both ends of the floor.

``You’ve got to give them credit. They came out and they were pretty suffocating defensive-wise,’’ Vaughn said. ``They were big at the wing positions and they challenged our shots. They were big at the wings and in the middle (with center Andrew Bogut) tonight.’’

Late in the night, Davis turned philosophical about the Magic’s lopsided loss. He was frustrated that Orlando had shared the ball so well and played impassioned defense the past two games, only to come unglued on Tuesday. He said the Magic must get more consistent in their habits and their execution if they are going to grow as a team this season.

``There’s a lot of learning to do, so much learning to do. I feel like we make steps and then we take steps back,’’ he said. ``That’s everybody from every direction. It’s just a matter of keeping a level of consistency that we can build on. Teams that are at the bottom of the totem pole, they practice bad habits and the level of consistency is not there. If we’re a team that’s going to grow and someday be something, there’s no more moral victories, no more mistakes and be there and have accountability.’’


Follow John Denton on Twitter here